From 'evil influence' to social facilitator: representations of youth smoking, drinking, and citizenship in Canadian health textbooks, 1890-1960

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One route to uncovering schooling's goals for an improved citizenry is to track certain subjects of the compulsory curriculum. In this case, health is investigated, and especially its messages on smoking and drinking. First introduced as scientific temperance instruction (in the 1880s), renamed hygiene (from about 1910), then as health (from the mid-1920s), and expanded to encompass as well physical education and personal development from the mid-1940s, health curricula were an important vehicle for turning impressionable youth into personally and socially responsible citizens. An explication of the Ontario (Canada) health curriculum between 1890 and 1960 provides an insight into the changing official prescription of the good citizen. It also shows how changed notions of health in the modern age are from the 19th-century antecedents, and, especially, how self-interest has become central to that definition. Accordingly, the lessons around smoking and drinking have moved from these products being an 'evil influence' to one of social facilitation.

Keywords: Ontario education; character education; citizenship education; health education; textbook analysis

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2008

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